Nov 142014
 

sky-mountain-1By Bob Smith.

A hiv noo ti confess masel’
A’ve cursed fin it dis rain
Canna git on the gowf course
Greens flooded eence again

Bit hae a wee bit think fowks
If we didna hae the rain
Kwintraside aa leukin gizzent
Baith here an in Dunblane

Nae watter rinnin doon the hills
An inti oor rivers tumblin
The fairmers tryin ti growe craps
Wid fair hae cause fer grumblin

Nae greenery in hills or glens
Trees stuntit in their growth
Nae watter ti the distilleries
Noo aat wid raise an oath

Fin yer plowt’rin throwe the dubs
An aa the rainfa it is measur’t
Jist myn withoot the rain
We’d be like the Gobi desert

Gweed Lord lit the rain doon faa
On golden locks an baldy heids
Ca cannie wi hivvens’s watterin can
Jist aneuch fer aa oor needs.

©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2012
 Image Credit: SKY MOUNTAIN 1 © Alexandru Mitrea | Dreamstime.com

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Jul 252014
 

By Bob Smith.flagsaltiremeniehaar

We hid a wee drive oot
The wye o Ellon toon
The sun wis fair shinin
An fowk war turnin broon
.
Efter an ice cream an waak aroon
We got back in ower the car
A fyow mile oot o Ellon
We war met bi bliddy haar
.
The nearer we got ti Menie
The haar it fair got worse
Wi grey mist ower Trumpie’s coorse
A’m sure a heard a curse
The “greatest golf coorse in the warld”
Far ye cwidna bliddy see
Ye widna hae kent fit line ti tak
Fin drivin aff ony tee
.
A’m a bittie sorry fer the feels
Fa pyed tap money fae afar
An on the coorse they cwidna play
Cos o north east’s famous haar
.
Haar!Haar!Haar! I hear fowk laach
Wi nae sympathy fer The Donald
Fowk shud drive a fyow miles north
An play Ellon’s haar free McDonald

©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2014
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Feb 072014
 

Old Susannah aka Suzanne Kelly brings you the latest ungodly news from Aberdeen and the wider world.

Dictionary

Armageddon outta here! It’s the end of the world as we know it.  I will tell you about the nice places and people I’ve see next week (from a brilliant new Jo Malone perfume to Brewdog’s newest creations, and CASC) – if the world hasn’t ended by then – but for now, it’s all panic, gloom and doom, you’ll be pleased to know.

People are marrying people who are the same sex; people are falling in love with people – of the same gender. This is an aberration. Speaking of aberrations, UKIP have some thoughts on these dark days as well (more on that later).

It’s rained for 40 days and nights (or so it feels). There are people not resting on the Sabbath.  We don’t have a granite web.

Not since the days of worshipping a golden calf and Sodom and Gomorrah has God been so unamused with us. There are signs of this displeasure everywhere.

Best get your affairs in order, buy a few cases of BrewDog, c-rations and long life milk, and get ready to hide in the fallout shelter. Here are some reasons why.

Divine retribution: (Eng. compound noun) An instance of God or Gods carrying out a vengeful act.

As previously mentioned and painfully obvious, it’s raining constantly; some will tell you it’s global warming. However, former Tory UKIP defector David Silvester from Henley-on-Thames knows the truth. It’s God’s punishment on us all for allowing gay marriage.

Sometimes politicians accidentally say the wrong thing, almost like they were mere mortals themselves. Such slip ups are probably how this whole same-sex (do pardon my use of the word ‘S E X’ ) business started. But Silvester’s not made a mistake, In fact, rather than qualifying his remarks, he’s bravely backing them up to us heathens and pagans.

He’s defending his stance that God is throwing thunderbolts and lashing us with lashings of rain.

His rational explanation is:

“The scriptures make it abundantly clear that a Christian nation that abandons its faith and acts contrary to the Gospel (and in naked breach of a coronation oath) will be beset by natural disasters such as storms, disease, pestilence and war.”

“I wrote to David Cameron in April 2012 to warn him that disasters would accompany the passage of his same-sex marriage bill.

“But he went ahead despite a 600,000-signature petition by concerned Christians and more than half of his own parliamentary party saying that he should not do so.”
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-oxfordshire-25793358

The scriptures also make it abundantly clear that Lot’s wife got turned into a pillar of salt and that the world was created in 7 days. Best to take all of its contents as equally factual I suppose.

just don’t engage in any non hetro stuff. It will confuse the locals

It must be kind of nice for Silvester and all the other people who have this hotline to the Almighty, and are convinced they know what God wants. Imagine knowing what God wants. Half the time I can’t decide what flavour of beer to drink next, or what to wear to work.  Guess I just don’t have the right kind of faith.

Another man of the times who says ‘down with this sort of thing’ is humanitarian Vladimir Putin. It’s a very good thing there are not really any gay people in Russia, as Putin’s very much against this whole gayness thing, never mind gay unions.

He’s always engaged in such manly events (or photo ops anyway) that Hemingway’s exploits look effeminate. If you’re going to the Olympics, be it to look at the captive orcas doing cute tricks, or to see who is better, stronger, faster than the next guy or girl (steroids optional), just don’t engage in any non hetro stuff. It will confuse the locals, and probably get you Pussy Riot’s old prison cell.

So next time you’re sloshing through a puddle on your way to work, just remember:  it’s all the fault of gay people who want to have legal protection for their families as if they were normal heterosexuals. Vote UKIP.

Humanism: (Modern English Noun) Philosophy and movement suggesting that people can live ethical and worthwhile lives without worshipping a god, and that there is beauty in this life.

Of all the dangerous philosophies to have arisen in the history of the world, this is possibly the worst. Humanists aren’t afraid of going to hell. They don’t have to dress in a particular way or do any rituals. They do not conform to any one doctrine. And worse, they even let women  perform ‘humanist’ marriage ceremonies.

Worse – we might eventually see a Humanist woman performing a ceremony linking two same sex people. Repent now (or it will rain harder).

These Humanists are even in Scotland, which is quite rightly causing a stir. Worse still, the Church of Scotland has agreed with the Humanists that in schools instead of time for prayer, there should be time for reflection instead.

I’m sure this development has angered you as much as it has me. The Reverend Watson, of a parish in Lanarkshire, has bravely decided to leave his post amidst all this heathenism. He explains in the Scotsman:-

“It would be hypocritical of me to preach the Bible week after week if I’m not prepared to live by its teaching, and as a family we have been amazed at the doors that God has opened for us over the last couple of weeks.”   – Scotsman 2 February 2014

Looks like the old chap upstairs with the harp and sandals is giving rain to some of us per the UKIP Silvester, but opening doors for the righteous.

recruitment companies and those who work offshore are being greedy if they switch companies

I’m not sure what we should do about these Humanists with their ideas about living a good life, helping others, and so on – but it’s clearly not compatible with the kind of philosophy that Reverend Watson’s church preaches. I also read that Watson has left the Church of Scotland to ‘join the stricter Free Church of Scotland’ – if I figure out how something that’s ‘Free’ is also strict, I’ll let you know.

Greed: (English Noun) Desire to acquire material goods; avarice.

Greed is certainly bringing the world down; even the Press & Journal have a front page story based on this sin on its front cover this past week.

On Thursday the P&J  reported on Sir Ian Wood’s latest findings. Sir Ian thinks that recruitment companies and those who work offshore are being greedy if they switch companies to get higher salaries. The amounts of money paid to those who work off shore are going up, and apparently are ‘unsustainable’.

It’s important to remember that there are two kinds of capitalism: first there is the kind Sir Ian preaches (the good, non-greedy kind), and the kind that he wants employees to follow. When the Wood Group came up with an interesting way of paying people via offshore entities to avoid tax, thought to possibly be £15 million a year lost to the UK government, this was not greed.

This was good business sense, and I’m sure everyone was doing it. Sir Ian’s worth is somewhere around the £1,187m  mark. This is because he’s a good businessman who takes advantage of opportunities. Some people think there is a growing gulf between the haves and the have nots, but I can’t find any evidence of this.

He does lots for charity – like keeping some £50 million in his family trust.  I’m sure it will be used any day now – if not on a granite web, then on turning Rwanda’s forests into tea-producing land for the benefit of the plantation owners and his venture partner Lord Sainsbury – sorry – for helping Rwanda’s poor, AIDS victims and others.

The other kind of capitalism is the bad kind – it’s when you want to get more money to support you and your family. It’s if you are offered more money for your work by one firm, and don’t turn the offer down.

A cynic might think this article and Sir Ian’s advice to the workers and employment agencies is just a tad rich. Like Sir Ian.

Could the P&J article possibly have an unspoken message from Ian to the agencies to freeze salary  hikes, keep margins down, and for us all to stop being greedy have anything to do with increasing profit margins for those one percenters at the top of the energy sector hierarchy? Of course not.

Reactionary: (modern English noun)   Someone who has knee-jerk reactions to events and situations.

Oh dear. While Reverend Watson, Vladimir Putin and UKIP ministers tell us what God wants when it comes to gay marriage and Humanists, there are those people who just have to go against God’s messengers. It pains me to tell you, but we have a few godless reactionary people right here in Scotland.

I seem to have a defective copy of the bible in the Old Susannah reference library

BrewDog’s founders James Watt and Martin Dickie (I hope that’s not some kind of gay surname) have created a beer that makes fun of Putin. It is such a disappointment, I may have to rethink my fondness for the company after all. (But not until I finish the case of ‘Hello My Name Is Vladimir’ double IPA I’ve got).

Then we have a woman (who should really have stayed in the kitchen) who is an MSP in the Highlands and Islands, Mary Scanlon.  After receiving kindly suggestions not to back gay weddings which she took as threats and intimidations, she decided to support homosexual marriage instead.

She was apparently branded (perhaps literally if there is any justice) ‘GODLESS’ for coming out in favour of allowing gay marriage.

Some people have got in touch with her to spread the word of god. Apparently, she should be burnt at the stake as a witch, but they better hurry with that, because others say God will strike her down. I wonder if he’ll use a thunder bolt or just make it rain harder over her home.

The funny thing is, I seem to have a defective copy of the bible in the Old Susannah reference library. Mine has things about ‘doing unto others as you would have others do unto  you’, ‘he who is without sin may cast the first stone’, and ‘love one another’.

Far be it from me to suggest that those who clearly know better and who seem to have God as a ‘Linked In’ friend could be somehow mistaken when it comes to wishing ill on others, or telling us God doesn’t want gay weddings. I’ll have to find out what bible they’re reading, and whether or not it only has the old testament fire and brimstone stuff in it, and where I can get a bible without the modern hippy Jesus love each other business.

Next week:  four men of the apocalypse (probably shirtless), fire, brimstone, and of course floods.

PS – for the avoidance of doubt, I remain a BrewDog shareholder (less than 5 shares). My name is Legion, for we are many (well, 10,000 other shareholders anyway)

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Feb 042014
 

Inverurie flooding by Duncan HarleyBy Duncan Harley.

For many years the River Urie has meandered at will over the farm land at Souterford.

Flooding of the area is an annual event and even Environment Secretary Owen Paterson is completely powerless to prevent it.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) last week issued an updated flood alert for Aberdeenshire and Aberdeen City and asked local residents to remain vigilant and to take action to “protect yourself and your property”.

The flood warning advised that river levels in the area were rising as a result of “persistent rainfall during Wednesday morning” leading to “flooding of low lying areas particularly in the Rivers Don and Deveron. Flooding is expected from late on Wednesday morning and may last until Thursday morning.”

There was, however, no flood warning issued for the Aberdeenshire town of Inverurie despite a worrying increase in the level of the River Urie.

Following some very heavy rainfall during the past week the Aberdeenshire town’s Souterford area, just off the B9170 Oldmeldrum to Inverurie highway, was in fact flooded and this caused concern to many residents of the Inverurie Osprey Village development who were keeping a watchful eye on the flood situation as the River Urie bursts its banks yet again and water levels in the area continued to rise.

This is of course not a new problem. In fact the River Urie has been responsible for flooding the area around Inverurie for hundreds if not thousands of years, leading some local residents to conclude that was the reason why the historic town was built a few hundred metres to the South West of the rivers natural course in the first place.

In the view of many locals, the decision by the Gordon House planners to permit residential and retail development on such a vulnerable site was surprising say the least.

Souterford is seemingly a flood plain and where a flood plain exists, rivers will tend to meander and on occasion create temporary lochs before draining seawards in the spring season.

A local Inverurie resident living with his partner in the towns Birch Drive observed that the water levels were “very alarming” and “almost within reach of the foundations” of his newly purchased 3 bedroom house.

“If I had been told about the flooding problems, I would never have bought this house” he said.

“We moved here from London and never expected anything like this, the home report made no mention of flood risk.

“Both the developers and the council are liable in my opinion.”

The adjoining retail park has also suffered from flooding of the car park since opening in 2009. Business owners declined to comment but staff report a decline in sales due perhaps to the deep water which customers require to negotiate after parking their cars at the East side of the car park.

Barratt Homes declined to comment regarding the flooding issue and their website currently advertises the “Final Phase” of Osprey Village with the comment that “this site is not available”.

Some recent buyers of houses on the flood plain may have reason to wish that the companies claim regarding the unavailability of the site had been visible prior to purchase.

The new Barratt Homes 2014 housing development at Souterford is somewhat aptly named Osprey Heights and is situated some 20 metres above Osprey Village. In the hopefully unlikely event of water levels threatening Osprey Heights, all of Aberdeenshire may have a problem.

If you or any member of your family are unsure about what to do to prevent flooding in your area, advice and information is readily available by calling Floodline on 0845 9881188.

Below is a helpful SEPA sponsored video entitled “An introduction to SEPA, Ever wondered what we do here at SEPA?”

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Jan 162014
 

By Bob Smith.

stonehavenflood

Floods they are noo frequent
Efter lots o hivvy rains
Mony say ae problem is
Biggin on flood plains
.
Hooses biggit near rivers
Es canna be jist richt
Mony hooses on flood plains
Is nae an idea maist bricht
.
Watter fa’in fae the sky
It needs tae soak awa
Concrete aa ower the lan
Es is nae eese ava
Mair biggins needit is the cry
Tae hoose oor growein masses
Maybe we jist need less fowk
An keep oor meadows an oor grasses
.
The answer’s nae an easy een
A solution it maan be fun
If climate change means mair rain
Fair sweemin wull be the grun.
.
.
.
.
©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2014
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Dec 232013
 

Fallen Tree 2 - Credit Ian BrittonBy Bob Smith.

Am lookin oot the winda
The win it fair dis blaw
Am gled it’s jist rainin
It’s cauld aneuch fer snaw

Win throwe trees is souchin
They’re duncin tae its tune
It widna be aat surprisin
If a fyow war blawn doon

I widna like for fowk ti be
On Ben Macdui’s tap richt noo
They cwid easily be blawn awa
An feenish up in the Lairig Ghru

Bit we shudna stairt complainin
Aboot the vagaries o oor wither
A widna chynge it fer onything
Hurricanes or tornadoes dinna bithe
r

So blaw awa ye blusterie wins
As throwe the leaves ye fussle
Ower yer strength we’ve nae control
Showin us humans ye’ve mair muscle

©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie”
Image Credit: Ian Britton. Freefoto.com
http://www.freefoto.com/preview/16-14-55/Fallen-Tree

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Jul 182013
 

Voice’s Old Susannah takes a look over the past week’s events in the ‘Deen and beyond. By Suzanne Kelly.

Balmy evenings, hot days, dolphins playing in Nigg Harbour; things are looking pretty good in the Deen for a place with such poor connectivity.  The Surf show of River Don photos has moved to 17 Belmont Street; at the opening Alicia Bruce gave an interesting talk, and some of the photographers discussed their work.

Art events, whether state-sponsored or not, are taking place despite the cultural bid being knocked out in an early round.   Artists converged on BrewDog earlier this week, with artists creating more wall art, and everyone given a chance to create their own artwork as well.
Photographer Sam Brill took some brill shots of the goings-on ( See pic below ).

It was almost as if artwork and spontaneity can happen without being planned and controlled by non-artists.

To celebrate getting a year older, I had a great night at Cafe 52, complete with a great group of people and the best chocolate cake I’ve ever had, which was made with stout – thank you Dorothy B.   I also had a lovely meal at Cafe Montmatre (the chocolate fondue dessert in particular was amazing); and some mysterious person sent champagne to my table as well, which went down very nicely indeed.  Thank you mysterious benefactor.

Education is in the forefront of the news this week.  School’s out for summer; schools are being merged, built, torn down and set fire to.

Graduating Uni students took their parents and friends to Union Terrace Gardens for photographs.
I suspect this is just to demonstrate the kind of hardships they’ve had to put up with while studying in the Deen, with its dark, dank scary park filled with deviants and druggies.

Many wonderful honorary degree candidates have been awarded diplomas as well; more on that later.

There are one or two coincidences in the news this week; one involves Aberdeen International Airport’s magazine, upBeat, sister to Trend magazine [what that?  Ed].  Its latest issue extols the virtues of our favourite golf course:-

“All golfing eyes are on Aberdeen with the advent of the Trump International Golf Course.  …the course has been voted both course of the year and the UK’s beset  practice ground, by Golf Odyssey, a leading golf travel magazine.  Looking ahead, the Trump resort will offer luxury accommodation in the Balmedie area, right on the coast.”

Isn’t that wonderful?  Awards, luxury, and no mention of any problems.

Coincidentally, the same issue of upBeat has a full page front inside colour advert.  Would you believe me if I told you this tasteful ad is for Trump’s Balmedie course?  Well, it is!  How very lucky to have the kind words appearing in the same issue as the ad.

This week’s definitions feature another coincidence and some university- and police-related definitions.

School Dinners: (mod English plural noun) cafeteria meals served to school children at meal times.

Known for their gourmet quality and popularity among children and school staff alike, I can truly say there is nothing like a school dinner.

In the news this week,  government is being pressured to make taking these delicious, healthy lunches absolutely mandatory.  The BBC reports that lobbyists want to ban packed lunches.  We can’t have too much freedom of choice, can we – makes things confusing.

Coincidentally, banning packed lunches and mandatory school dinners would be very profitable – for the Leon restaurant chain, which have been involved in a government-commissioned school food review.  Well, they weren’t going to come down in favour of children eating what they wanted or what their parents gave them, were they?

Sadly this attempt to gain further control by the state over children and parents is only in England so far.

I wonder which ConDem pals are behind this healthy option?

Since school meals are absolutely delicious and nutritious all the time, the little kids will be lapping this news up.  Still, it might be better if they could be force-fed, just to make sure they ate as they were told.

If some lucky restaurant/catering company gets a few pounds more from the recommendations they themselves made, so much the better. It’s not as if we’ve had any food scares.  And what could be better than a delicious British/English/Scottish/Welsh lunch at school?  Yum!

The small fly in the ointment (or in the spag bol sauce) might just be the little revelation that most of our institutions are serving chicken from… Thailand.

Sure this might not be the most ecologically sound choice in terms of carbon footprint.  It might not exactly be the best country in terms of animal welfare.  This fact might not exactly be good news to UK farmers.  But still, we’re saving money, even if  causing further animal suffering, ignoring our own economy, and making interesting transport choices in terms of pollution.

I wonder which ConDem pals are behind this healthy option?  Then again, it’s not a great amount, only 70% or so of chicken is coming from Thailand.  It’s not as if we’re serving horsemeat or contaminated beef to the little nippers, is it?

Honorary Degree: (Eng. compound noun) a citation/diploma bestowed by an educational institution on a person worthy of receiving such a qualification in light of their achievements in the world.

Someone named Annie Lennox got an honorary degree this week; she’s a singer who sticks her nose into issues such as Union Terrace Gardens (when we know only famous football managers are allowed to comment on the gardens’ future).  She’s also done lots of charity work, entertained people around the world, and campaigned on issues such as AIDS.

Bad luck Ms Lennox – you didn’t get a degree this time round from Robert Gordon University.  It instead decided the person to honour was: ex BP supremo, Tony Hayward.

Tony gratefully and humbly accepted this honour , presumably from Chancellor Ian Wood, for his 30 years in the oil business.  Less said about that little blip in the Gulf of Mexico, the better.

Of course Tony could have refused this degree, but why should he?

Haywire was in charge when the Deepwater Horizon incident happened.  People lost lives, lost husbands and dads, and it was very gruelling indeed for Tony.  He told the press he very much wanted his life back; it was all just a bit too demanding on his time.

Not so demanding though that he couldn’t go out sailing with Hay junior (presumably not in the Gulf of Mexico though).

RGU are being just a little bit modest in their awarding Tony this honour.  They say that once it was on the table, they had to go ahead and honour him.  Of course they did – when did RGU or Chancellor Sir Ian Wood ever go back on their word?  (Voice Competition – send in your lists of Ian involved in contradictory statements/actions – longest list wins a prize.  First hint to get you started – who said they would walk away if the public didn’t want the city gardens project?).

Of course Tony could have refused this degree, but why should he?  Aside from issues of accountability, lack of cooperation  with US investigators, denial, self-pity, or self-absorption, no reason I can think of.

Congratulations to Tony for joining other honourees including Donald Trump.  If the unthinkable happens, and RGU ever did anything unpalatable or unethical, Wayward could do as Dr Kennedy did, and return his degree.  More on the great man here, from Lena the Hyena  http://lenathehyena.wordpress.com/2013/07/13/i-would-love-my-life-back-the-honouring-of-tony-hayward/

Undoubtedly, this great honour to a great guy to celebrate him getting his life back (unlike the 11 souls which were killed, and the thousands of birds and sea creatures killed) is completely justified.

The best part of these RGU degrees is the example they set to the students.  Holding up Hayward and Trump as examples of what to aspire to, rewarding how they have proceeded through their careers, sends a clear message to students as to the importance of integrity, ethics, compassion and accountability.

Betting’s open for who will get an honorary RGU degree next year; favourite contenders are Ian Duncan Smith, Vlad the Impaler,  George Osbourne, or Roger Pearce of Special Branch.   “Who’s Pearce?” I hear you ask.  Well, here is a tale of our chief freedom fighter…

Justified: (noun) Necessitated, explainable, required.

Sometimes it’s worth taking a minute to realise how important it is that police spy on us.  Whatever they do, it’s for our own good.  Here’s to the men and women – although in this case mostly men – who go to great lengths to blend into dangerous subversive groups to keep our nation free from democracy – SORRY – I mean to say they keep our nation a free democracy.

Scattered around the country, there are a dozen or so young people who will eventually get mandatory school dinners justifiably thrust down their throats; they may wind up on great university courses where they will learn ethics by example such as RGU.  Their very existence is a shining testament to the vigorous vigilance, – and virility – of our brave, selfless undercover police.

This might seem outrageous, anti-democratic, exploitative of women

So thank you Roger Pearce of The Metropolitan Police’s Special Demonstration Squad, for running secret operations, keeping us safe in our beds.  In the case of a dozen women, it was more a case of getting them into bed, having sex with them, and fathering children – all under false pretences.

Those brave undercover cops got under the covers to keep you and I safe –  from middle class environmental protestors.

There can be no better example of how actions are justified than what Pearce told the BBC:-

 “The objective was to gather secret political intelligence. Many in the Met as a whole wouldn’t have known about it and even within the branch it was kept very, very secret for 40 years,”

“People felt very awkward about doing it. People thought of the parents of the children who had died. But against that was the sense of mission and work for the country.”

“Most [of the creepy two-faced bastards – sorry – police] had families who had to also bear this other life they were leading at strange times of the week – weekends and evenings – so it was tough for the officers and tough for their families too. But I think what drove them on to do it was that it was seen as the pinnacle of their careers,”  (Presumably their wives gave their consent for the police husbands to have unprotected sex with suspects and father children – how very giving of them – if they were consulted).

“on balance, distasteful in many ways though it was, set against the sense of mission and the sense that this was done for protection of national security, I believe it was justified“.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-23256799
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-23224301

For ten years, Pearce signed off on operations where male officers took the identities of dead children (nb – the bereaved parents were thrilled to learn of this) in order to pretend to be protestors, spending years pretending to be friends, lovers, husbands.

This might seem outrageous, anti-democratic, exploitative of women if not actual sexual assault by sleazy narcissistic police officers, and so on.  But rest assured – Pearce believed it was all justified, so that’s pretty much all right then.

Not just anyone would be willing to spend years fooling those around them, even after realising the protestors in question were harmless, non-violent  average people who simply wanted to do their bit to protect the environment.

Not everyone would have had sex with women and got them pregnant to keep their cover.  And not just any top cop would have signed the approvals needed for this to go on. you just can’t teach this kind of patriotism or ethics – perhaps doling out a few RGU diplomas to those involved would be a suitable reward.

Officer Bob Lambert was especially vigilant; he had his own children, but fathered a child with a woman named Jacqui.  Oddly, she feels hard done by, and feels like she was ‘raped by the state.’  The Guardian has more on her story here http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2013/jun/24/undercover-police-spy-girlfriend-child

As ever, Private Eye has been on this story from its early days.  No doubt more accounts of heroics will be forthcoming; Old Susannah will watch in admiration, and report back.

Just a little reminder.

Do enjoy the summer sun, but wear sunscreen.  If you have children, don’t let them out for any length of time, cloudy or sunny, without a good child’s sun lotion.  Unless you want to damage their health that is.  Even a little sunburn for a child will be very dangerous and damaging.

Dogs need lots of water if you’re taking them on long walks, make sure you bring some water for them.  And please don’t wind up like the Edinburgh policeman a few years back who killed his dog.

He left it in the hot car.  Just for a moment.  It’s dead, and that’s really all you need to know.  Dogs die in hot cars – and in cars that don’t seem hot to you.  Dogs also get stolen.  If you wouldn’t want your dog dead or stolen, then don’t leave it alone.  Enjoy your summer with sense.

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Jun 072013
 

By Bob Smith.

‘Fit’s aat up abeen?’, says I
Fin a spied an ususual sicht
A yalla orb in the sky
Shinin doon sae bricht

A hid tae rack ma memory
Tae think fit it micht be
It cam tae me sudden like
T’wis the sun fit a did see

It hid been a wee fylie
Since it showed its face
Hail, rain, win an caul
Wis fit we’ve hid tae face

So shine on richt merrily
Mr Sun ye cheer us aa up
An hae us steppin oot briskly
As tho we wis a young pup

Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2013
Image: Orange Sunset © Zoran Tripalo  Dreamstime Stock Photos

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Mar 282013
 

I often have a wee laugh to myself when I read about the cost to the UK economy of the Royal Wedding or a public holiday. It seems that a national bank holiday costs the economy a whopping £2.3 bn according to The Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), writes Duncan Harley.

Of course, if bank holidays or royals can’t be blamed for our economic ills, there is always the weather.
This week’s tabloid headlines have pointed to snow as the real culprit for the recession.
I am guessing that greedy bankers are off the hook, as are western capitalist models of economic theory!

If the snow really is to blame though, 2012 should have been a bumper year for the UK economy, as barely a flake fell during the winter months yet the economy continued to nosedive.

Spare a thought though for the people of Greek Cyprus. It’s a balmy 20C in Nicosia at present with little prospect of snow. In fact the Troodos mountain ski resort website advises, ‘Fresh snow is forecast at 0 resorts. Powder is reported at 0 resorts and 0 are reporting good piste conditions.

There seems little evidence that snow, or indeed inclement weather, has played any part in the economic woes of that country.

The banks and government of Cyprus are reported to be taking action in an attempt to stop a bank run when branches reopen at 1000 GMT Thursday March 28. The only problem may be that the money may have already moved to colder climes!

As usual, it’s the ordinary Cypriot folk who will lose out as will, of course, thousands of UK expats who had decided to retire to that island paradise and are now stuck with an EEC-led raid on savings which, according to news reports, amounts to a devaluation of capital of up to 30%.

For many Greek Cypriots who lost land and property in the 1974 war with Turkey, this must seem like yet another unfair economic body blow.

The RAF has come to the rescue of forces personnel affected by the crisis by using a Hercules Transport to fly a million or so Euros in small denomination notes from the UK to Cyprus. That’s £850000 @ 2.6 gallons per minute @ £6.27 per gallon. The flight is around 2135 miles and takes 4 hours and 8 minutes.

I can’t even begin to persuade my calculator to work out the cost per Euro per mile of this operation and I suppose a simple bank transfer was indeed out of the question due to the banks in the country being closed for a few days.

However, there is no such rescue package in place for the locals.

Rumours of money laundering via the Cypriot banks abound and there is an emerging scandal about an alleged outflow of money to Eastern Europe, just in time to avoid the bank deposit tax deadline. As is often the case, the rich may well have been forewarned, although they will no doubt claim that they foresaw the disaster and acted in a completely sensible and honest manner.

Somewhat amazingly, the Bank of Cyprus UK’s website still claims that, ‘There are a number of reasons why Bank of Cyprus UK is a safe and attractive home for your savings and a strong banking partner for your business.’

I wonder if anyone will feel able to trust the UK subsidiary of a bank which came within hours of failing, then effectively decided to pay negative interest to its investors?

According to The Guardian, the Bank of Cyprus is 9.7% owned by Dmitry Rybolovlev, a Russian based in Monaco whose wealth is estimated at $9.1bn. I wonder how much Mr Rybolovlev lost in the debacle?

Seemingly another Russian oligarch, Alexander Lebedev, played down the amount he stood to lose in Cyprus as no more than $10,000. ‘It’s not worth talking about,’ he said. ‘Cyprus was always a transit jurisdiction, money would pass through and then go to Lithuania, Latvia, Belize, Switzerland, everywhere.

Lebedev, the multimillionaire owner of the Evening Standard and Independent, expressed doubts that capital controls, to be imposed by the Cypriot government to stem a bank run, would work.

Certain schemes can be put into place,’ Lebedev said, ‘This is how Cyprus was making money.

Many folk in the UK would associate this process with money laundering although politicians in the ex British colony have strongly denied that that has ever been the case.

Despite such denials, there can be no doubt that there is a strong Russian influence on the Greek Cypriot economy. Indeed the picture-postcard town of Limassol has become jokingly known as ‘Limassolgrad’ by locals with around 30,000 of the municipality’s 183,000 citizens being of Eastern European origin.

Unsurprisingly, the Moscow elite are unhappy. President Putin denounced the EU-IMF plan to eviscerate private bank accounts in Cyprus as ‘unfair, unprofessional and dangerous.’ Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev called the move ‘outright theft’.

The Daily Beast reports, ‘what’s striking about the Kremlin’s spirited opposition to the raid on Cyprus’s banks is that the island is Russia’s preferred destination for hiding and laundering money. In effect, Putin has been standing up for the rights of Russia’s tax avoiders.

The Kremlin is reported to have been under pressure to increase its 2.5bn Euro loan to the country to bail out the economy. Since the Greek Cypriot national income is 18bn Euros per annum, even the current loan level makes Russia a major player in the cash strapped country’s affairs.

Makes you glad that that the UK is not owned by foreigners.

That is, of course, unless you count:

The Clydesdale Bank, Alliance and Leicester, Jaguar, Land Rover, MG Rover, P&O, Chelsea FC, Manchester United FC, Liverpool FC, BAA, Abbey National, British Steel, Pilkington, Boots, Harrods, ICI, Cadbury, Fortnum & Mason, Rolls-Royce and Bentley Motors , The Dorchester, Innocent, Wiseman’s Dairies and Forth Ports.

Sources:

Reasons to be Cheerful (Inspired when roadie Charley almost got electrocuted in Italy by a microphone stand while leaning over a mixing desk. Another roadie saved his life.): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reasons_to_be_Cheerful,_Part_3

Snow blamed for economic gloom: http://www.nebusiness.co.uk/business-news/latest-business-news/2013/02/16/heavy-snow-blamed-for-shock-fall-in-retail-sales-51140-32819692/

Cost of public holidays: http://metro.co.uk/tag/centre-for-economics-and-business-research/

Cyprus Banks: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/mar/26/cyprus-banks-closed-prevent-run-deposits

Money Laundering: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/03/26/moscow-s-mysterious-move-on-cyprus.html

Bank of Cyprus UK: http://www.bankofcyprus.co.uk/Business-Banking/

UK brands owned abroad: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2129507/Britain-sale-Uniquely-world-Britain-sold-half-companies-foreigners-And-paying-price.html

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Feb 082013
 

Duncan Harley reflects on Life, the Universe and Everything. A sideways look at the world and its foibles.

The SS Politician – Whisky Galore

On the 4th of February 1941 during an Atlantic gale the SS Politician ran aground just off the Island of Eriskay in the Outer Hebrides.

The crew got ashore safely and the locals took them in and gave them shelter.

Now this was wartime and there was rationing of all sorts of items including eggs, butter and, somewhat crucially, whisky. When the folk of Eriskay learned from the crew of the “Polly” that the ship had 264,000 bottles of best highland malt in its hold, an unofficial salvage operation was launched.  

Word soon spread all across the Hebrides and soon fishing boats were heading to fishing grounds all around the wreck during the hours of darkness to liberate the contents of the ship’s hold before the winter storms broke up the hull and destroyed the cargo forever.  It was all quite innocent and seemingly legitimate.

But this was not the view of the local customs officer, one Charles McColl, who was incensed at the outright thievery that he saw going on.  None of the whisky had paid a penny of duty and, as he railed against this loss to the public purse, McColl whipped up a furore and made the police act.

Villages were raided and crofts turned upside down.  Bottles were hidden, secreted, or simply drunk in order to hide the evidence.

The rest is history.

The 1947 Compton Mackenzie novel Whisky Galore, which was made into an Ealing Comedy film in 1949, tells a good tale about the episode.  In reality though, many islanders went to jail for up to six weeks for offences ranging from theft, to evasion of excise duty.

I can well understand the islander’s actions though.  Faced with a gift from the sea of the water of life, known in the Gaelic as usquebaugh, what else were they to do?

In the course of that most severe of winters when the temperature plummeted to around minus 26 degrees

Many years ago when I lived in an Aberdeenshire village, I met in with a man by the name of Ronnie who lived in the croft house left to him by his mother who had been a seer.  He had two brothers who were men of the cloth and he, Ronnie, had a special relationship with the water of life.

In the winter of 1981/82 I think it was, Ronnie, who was an affable sort of chap ran out of funds and took in some lodgers in order to keep body and spirit alive.  In the course of that most severe of winters when the temperature plummeted to around minus 27 degrees in neighbouring Braemar, resulting in the deer foraging in the streets in desperation for sustenance, Ronnie was faced with a stark choice.  Either heat the house or buy whisky.

Being a clever man he found a middle way.  He burned the doors, floorboards and stairs for heating and using the income from his lodgers, bought whisky.

I drove past the scene today.  The croft house is, somewhat surprisingly, still standing and looks just as it did all those years ago.

I have lost all contact with the man but wish him well.

Chelsea Tractors

One of the hazards of living in Aberdeenshire is the proliferation of those huge Chelsea Tractor vehicles which the oil rich buy and then attempt to use on the rural roads.
With names like Defender, Land Cruiser and Outlander they are often driven by diminutive men and women who only ever drive off road on the grass verge at my local Tesco’s car park.
Some of these monsters are so long and wide that the drivers really should sit a special driving test just to get to drive them round corners.

When met on a country road they often dominate the whole road and avoid the puddles lest they get mud on their vehicle of choice.  We actually have a Humvee in my locality!  I understand the owner lives in a flat in Inverurie and commutes to Dyce each day doing 55mph at a roaring 4mpg.  The daily journey includes fuel stops every few miles and the occupants require a stepladder to get into the vehicle.

Don’t get me wrong though, these muscle cars have their place.  I well remember a desert trip North of Cairo where a pal and I travelled off road for hours exploring Roman settlements and collecting Amphora.  The North East of Scotland has both but most are well within reach of a well surfaced road.

This is a shot is of my local supermarket car park.  The grass has been churned up by 4 X 4 enthusiasts who routinely park off road then proudly load shopping into the vehicles in the hope that they will somehow appear macho.

Seemingly the driver of a towel supply company has had quite enough.  Taking direct citizen action he has used his van to block off the affected area.

I commend the drivers action and have photo shopped the van’s number plate to protect his/her identity.

The Butcher’s Arms

I find pubs fascinating.

Full of all sorts of humanity, they provide an insight into other folk’s lives which would be difficult to achieve by any other means.

You can walk in, do a bit of chat and walk right out again if you have met an axe murderer.  Easy, no worries and a good kidney flush at the very least.

A decade or so ago, I frequented a pub in Glasgow populated by a quite varied spectrum including journalists, musicians, actors, students and Spanish Civil War veterans, plus a smattering of local manual labourers which completed the mix.

It all worked fairly well, at least up until 10pm on a Saturday night at which point it was best to make excuses and vacate the premises before the inevitable football rivalry came to the fore and the glasses began to fly.

I have often wondered in the intervening years why they sold wine by the pint.  White Tornado it was called as I recall.

Glasgow also had a pub in Pollockshaws by the name of “The Office,” which was very handy indeed if you required an excuse for coming back late from work.

Then there was the Foundry Bar in Arbroath where I lived there for a while.  A lovely place, by the seaside with an unheated open air pool and a sit in chipper where you had to use an old fashioned pre-metric penny to use the loo.  Bingo on a Saturday night in the hall above Woolworth’s, boats in the harbour full of fish and a great big lighthouse flashing a few miles offshore just to keep you awake at night.

The town in those days had a mix of townsfolk, farm folk, fisher folk and Royal Marines.  Each had their own public house and God help those who dared to mix and match.  The local harbour still holds some dark secrets, I think.

The Foundry Bar however was different.  Anyone could walk in providing they could sing, play a fiddle or simply enjoy the impromptu music.  A brilliant place indeed!

No fights, no hassle and an old tea chest to sit on if you got there early enough.

There are some pubs, however, that I am not fond of.  Not because they are bad pubs or difficult establishments though.  Simply because of their names. I can cope quite happily with The Kintore Arms, The Black Bull, Filthy McNasties and even The Ploughman’s Lunch, as long as he has not eaten it already.

Sadly the Butcher’s Arms has never quite done it for me.  Connotations of those Tesco’s horse burgers perhaps, or simply an uneasy relationship with raw, bloody, meat.  I don’t really know for sure.

I often wonder if the management of this public house and the other 1200 similarly named establishments in the UK, would consider a name change to something like My Lovely Cow or even Aren’t Horses Great Ted?  But that’s just a personal preference.

Full Metal Harry

We have heard a lot from the Royal Press correspondents in the last week or so about the third in line to the throne’s prowess with a machine gun, and I for one am certainly not about to get into a debate here except to state the obvious, which is of course that such guns are banned in the UK unless the powers that be can be convinced that citizens have a legitimate reason for possessing them.

The whole sorry tale somehow reminds me of an ex-soldier I saw interviewed a few years ago on a current affairs programme.

He was jobless, having left the army after several years of exemplary service. At his Jobcentre Plus interview he was asked about the skills he had learned during his time in the army.

“Well” he said – in a Geordie accent –

“I’m quite an ace with a machine gun and I can strip one down and reassemble it in the blink of an eye, so if you want someone killing, then I’m your man!”

Needless to say the Jobcentre staff struggled to find the ex squadie a job in his previous line of work.

So what would Harry need to do to get some target practice in, on the UK mainland?

He could join an Armed Response Unit I suppose, although self restraint and maturity are normally required to be taken on in such a role. Plus of course he would need to walk the beat as a uniformed bobby for a couple of years before even being considered for the job. Being sworn in, sworn at and spat upon on a typical Friday night down on Union Street may not be his scene though I suspect.

I am guessing that Royal Protection Duties would be also be out due to protocol issues.

He could of course provoke a riot. That would do it!

Far fetched?

the troops have returned home to discover that all is not well in Scotland

Not really, look at the Miners Strike, the 2011 London  Riots which have been somewhat euphemistically called “England’s Summer of Disorder” and of course the numerous more recent examples in Eastern Europe and the Middle East where the ruling classes have fired upon the populace to make them see things their way.

In short, when the people are not happy with the governing classes, there may be trouble ahead.

The 31st of January is of course the anniversary of the Great Storms of 1953 which I wrote about last week.  It’s also the date of the demise of the Young Pretender – Charles Edward Stuart – in Rome in 1788 after a protracted relationship with Brandy.
But who remembers the Battle of George Square which took place on the 31st January 1919?

Picture the scene if you will.

The “War to end all wars” has recently ended and the troops have returned home to discover that all is not well in Scotland. There are few jobs for the returning heroes and working conditions are poor with low wages and a long working week.

The workforce which had been in reserved occupations manufacturing the arms and tools for war are unhappy with the cuts in the standard working week due to the fact that the war has ended and there is no longer much demand in France for barbed wire, bullets and explosives.

Plus of course the Bolshevist revolution has taken place leading to the early demise of the Russian Royal Family by a firing squad.

So on Friday 31st January 1919, after a general strike by 40,000 workers in the industrial heartland of Scotland, there was a mass rally in Glasgow’s George Square.  Now the aim of the rally was to hear the response of the UK government to the workers demands so the Lord Provost, Sir James Watson Stewart, and the Trades Council President, Mannie Shinwell, duly entered the City Chambers to have a wee natter.

Sadly things got out of control. As they talked, the police baton charged the assembled crowd. A magistrate tried to read the Riot Act but had the document taken from his hands and ripped up and things just got from bad to worse.

seasoned troops from south of the border were instructed to open fire if required to do so

The failure of the police to control the riot prompted the Coalition Government under one David Lloyd George to react. After Scottish Secretary Robert Munro described the riot as a “Bolshevist uprising” troops armed with machine guns, tanks and a howitzer arrived to occupy Glasgow’s streets.

The howitzer was positioned on the City Chambers steps facing the crowd, the local cattle market was transformed into a tank depot, machine guns were posted on the top of the North British Hotel, the Glasgow Stock Exchange and the General Post Office Buildings.

As is usual in such situations no local troops were used. The Scot’s battalions who had recently returned from France were confined in Maryhill Barracks while seasoned troops from south of the border were instructed to open fire if required to do so.

Amazingly, there was no major bloodshed as far as I am led to believe. There must have been broken heads and limbs via the initial police action but I can find no record of deaths.

The troops did not open fire although the tanks were deployed in Glasgow’s George Square. I can only assume that the government of the day decided that it would be a bad idea to provoke social change via bloodshed.

Mannie Shinwell and some other trade union activists were jailed for a bit and a 47 hour working week was agreed. Until the 1922 General Strike, things smouldered on of course, but that’s another story.

I have no information about what transpired in Aberdeen or Aberdeenshire on the 31st January 1919 and would ask folk to get in touch with any memories of that day. I did however find a reference to Aberdeen Trades Council discussing the issue and agreeing to mount a protest against the “continued imprisonment of the Clyde Strikers” and I have no doubt that given the politics of the time there must have been folk from the North East not only attending the demonstrations but serving with in the military in the area.

I sincerely hope that the third in line to the throne will not only read this but will have a wee look at the helicopter door gunner sequence in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket.

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